Filipino's Donation Puts Schwarzenegger Under Fire
LA CAÃ'ADA FLINTRIDGE, California -- California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has come under fire for accepting close to $70,000 in campaign contributions from a Filipino American businessman whose company faces criminal elder-neglect charges.
Campaign finance reports show that Schwarzenegger accepted the contributions from Emmanuel Bernabe, whose company runs 35 nursing homes throughout the state and employs several Filipino American health workers and caregivers.
Bernabe resides in this picturesque Los Angeles suburb in the foothills that is known for its million-dollar homes. His 20-year-old company, Pleasant Care Corp., is also based here.
Marty Wilson, the governor's top political aide and fundraising coordinator, said they have started to conduct an internal investigation into the matter and will consider returning Bernabe's campaign contributions.
"We expect to have a resolution (on the matter) very soon," said Wilson in a phone interview. Wilson said he did not have any prior knowledge of legal battles faced by Bernabe's company.
A San Francisco-based watchdog group, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, sharply criticized the governor for accepting contributions from Bernabe.
"The amount that Mr. Bernabe contributed to his campaign may be peanuts compared to contributions made by other donors," said the group's executive director Pat McGinnis.
"But it's very interesting that, suddenly, Mr. Bernabe started making these contributions."
"The governor should check the background of (donors) before accepting their contributions," McGinnis added.
Since Schwarzenegger took office in November 2003, state regulators have cited 11 of Bernabe's homes more than 50 times and slapped them with about $285,000 in fines, McGinnis said, citing Department of Health records compiled by her group. Bernabe has disputed the citations.
Last week, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed a 13-count complaint against Pleasant Care Corp., claiming that the company and its facility in Napa -- a city in Northern California that is famous for its wineries -- neglected residents and endangered their health.
Bernabe's company pleaded not guilty, but the Napa facility has been ordered closed.
According to one of the citations, the facility allegedly failed to properly treat an elderly woman's bedsores. The untreated sores spread, and this alleged neglect was blamed for her death.
Bernabe's company was also charged with wage and child labor violations in 2002, according to US Department of Labor records. His company agreed to a $1.1-million settlement.
The issue of Bernabe's campaign contributions was raised shortly after Schwarzenegger's campaign announced that it would return a $10,000 donation from a donor who is under investigation for an investment scandal in Ohio.
Meanwhile, sources within the Filipino-American community said Bernabe is a known supporter of opposition Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr.
Earlier reports by Filipino newspapers in Los Angeles named Bernabe as a contributor to Pimentel's election campaign.
Bernabe could not be immediately reached for comment.
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